There are too many unexplained issues about the Mera/Admarc K2.9 billion maize issue. The Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) through its chairman Bishop Joseph Bvumbwe said in a press statement a month ago it will recover the whole amount of K2.9billion from the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) Mera used to buy 10 000 metric tonnes of maize for the latter to sell in its markets in 2016.
But two weeks later, Admarc said it will only repay K1.9 billion because some of the maize that Mera bought from Auction Holdings Commodities Exchange (AHXC) was rotten while some was stolen in transit.
This begs several questions: Where is the rotten maize? Why did Admarc not inform Mera about this? The fact that Mera says it will recoup from Admarc all the money (K2.9 billion) that it used to buy maize means that as far as it is concerned it (Mera) delivered all the 10 000 metric tonnes of maize to Admarc as planned and in good order.
The next question is: what is AHXC’s take on the claim by Admarc that Mera delivered rotten maize? Why does AHXC not want to clear its name which is being dragged in the mud with the allegation or implication that it sold Mera rotten maize?
Then assuming that some maize was indeed stolen in transit while in the custody of Mera, was this not a police case? Did Mera report the matter to the law enforcing agency? If it did, which police station or stations? And if so, what was the amount that was stolen? When? Who was or were the transporter(s)? Or what action did Mera take about the matter? If Mera did not report the theft(s) to police as I suspect, why?
Admarc has also said it will only repay K1.9 billion because although Mera bought the maize at K250 per kilogramme (kg) from AHXC, Admarc sold it at K110 per kg. Did Mera just dump the maize in Admarc markets? Why do the two organisations think Malawians will easily buy the explanation they are giving about the transaction? Did the two firms not meet to agree on the terms of reference (TORs) for each one of them before implementing it? I am saying all this because K2.9 billion is a lot of money.
Why do they think Malawians are so daft that they will easily buy their explanation about the whole issue as being just fine? Mera buys the maize from AHXC at K250 per kg and dumps it at Admarc markets without knowing the price at which Admarc would sell the grain to ensure Mera recoups the K2.9 billion?
At the end of the day, when Admarc only repays K250 million, Mera finds it right and proper just to fire its chief executive officer and finance director and thinks that it will be business as usual? Where was the Mera board in the whole deal? Was its job not to ensure management implements its decisions? Was it sleeping on the board?
As we stand now, the Price Stabilisation Fund (PSF) is K2.7 billion short after Admarc repaid only K250 million from the sale of the maize. Bvumbwe has said Mera will ensure the money is repaid. But can we trust him that he will live up to his word given the malfeasance we have seen at Mera? In fact, can anyone trust this government following the manner it shortchanged Malawians on the Malawi Savings Bank (MSB) toxic loans? Who will ensure that Admarc repays the money which is meant to cushion fuel prices? Could the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament (PAC) ensure this money is repaid? Otherwise we don’t expect Mera to raise fuel prices before this money is repaid.
- The article first appeared in the Weekend Nation newspaper